News & Insights

Recent Posts

Covid-19: Assessing the Legal Risk of Infectious Diseases

WSHB Employer Alert: FFCRA and DOL Regulations 4.2.20

Employment Practices Consultation & COVID-19

It’s a No-Win Situation: The Perils Facing Hospitals Due to the Coronavirus

COVID-19 Employer Alert: Summary of the CARES Act

COVID-19: New York Malpractice Law Alert

COVID-19 Employer Alert: Enactment of Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

WSHB Co-Founder Stephen Henning to Announce the Winner of CLM's 2020 Outside Counsel Professional of the Year Award

WSHB Partner Robert Hellner Shares Mediation Tactics at CLM’s 2020 Annual Conference

Risk Transfer and Contractual Indemnification – Who Gets Left Holding the Bag?

New Developments in Challenging Certificates of Merit — Seeking Dismissal for Failure to Concurrently File Certificate with the Original Petition

Seven Habits that Define a Highly Effective Claims Team

Social Media Do's and Don'ts

Read the Room: Arguments that Work in Court but May Backfire at Mediation

WSHB Partner Kelly Waters Named to NJBIZ's 2020 Best Fifty Women in Business List

WSHB Names Andrew S. Kessler as Managing Partner of the Firm's Philadelphia Office

WSHB Employment Alert: California Law Banning Arbitration Agreements Temporarily on Hold

Sam McDermott on the Dos and Don’ts of Construction Project Termination

Full Disclosure! Insurer Beware: Colorado’s New Automobile Policy Disclosure Law Has Teeth!

Andrew S. Kessler Named Legal Counsel for Northeast Community Center for Behavioral Health

WSHB Elevates Ten Partners to Defined Equity Status

Eleven WSHB Attorneys Elected Into Partnership

Eighteen Attorneys Elected to WSHB Senior Counsel

Supreme Court Allows Suit Over Website Accessibility

Strategies for Defending Legionella and Mold Claims

Residential Revolution

Time Limit Demand Issues Arrive in North Carolina

WSHB Welcomes New Partner Julie A. Weerth to the Firm's New York Office

Temp Agency Absolved of Liability in Hotly Contested Action

Alternative Fee Agreements and Construction Issues: Oil and Water or Perfect Pairing!?

WSHB's Graham Miller Helps Demystify Construction Claims in the Pacific Northwest

WSHB Partner Janice Michaels Named to The Best Lawyers in America© 2020 List

One Bad Apple: Navigating through Sexual Battery and other Intentional Torts

Leading Construction Litigator Cynthia Tari Joins WSHB's Dallas Office

WSHB’s Philadelphia Partner Secures Summary Judgment in Catastrophic Premises Liability Matter

WSHB Welcomes New Partner Andrew Kessler

New Bill In New York Proposed for Signature by Governor Andrew Cuomo is Set To Make Employers "SWEAT"

Renowned Litigator Jason Williams Joins WSHB's Nevada Office

Litigator Richard Young Joins WSHB's Nevada Office

Published Appellate Opinion Upholding Summary Judgment in Favor of Commercial Tenant Against $3.5M Subrogation Suit

17 WSHB Lawyers Honored as 2019's Rising Stars

Arizona Supreme Court Allows Court of Appeals Decision Expanding Defendants' Ability to Enforce Settlements to Stand

WSHB’s Jason Klein Breaks Down the Good, the Sad and the Funny Sides of Claims

Litigating Sexual Battery and Other Intentional Torts: Navigating the One Bad Apple in Medical Negligence

WSHB Partner Michelle Arbitrio to Moderate Panel on Insurance and Risk Management in the Age of Mass Shootings

Girl on Fire: The Price of Pursuing the Truth in the #MeToo World

Pragmatic Issues on Settlement Versus Trial for Legal Malpractice Cases

A Withering Assault

The Natural Progression of Natural Disasters

Nevada’s Governor Signs Chapter 40 Reform Bill

WA Condo Law Changes Hope to Curtail Frivolous Defect Lawsuits and Stimulate Production

WSHB Co-Founder Stephen Henning Steps Into the Spotlight at this Year's West Coast Casualty Seminar

Professional Liability Expert Weighs In On Protecting Your Practice From Opioid Doc Arrest Fallout

Penalties, Punitives, and Granny Cams: The Escalating Lure of Elder Abuse Litigation

Are Structured Settlements Still Relevant

Game Changing Trends Affecting Construction

He's Not My Guy: The Joint-Employer Doctrine

WSHB Case Update: DOL Proposes Increase to Minimum Salary Threshold

WSHB and DWF Announce Exclusive Association

Employment Law Alert: OSHA Issues Emergency Temporary Standard for Managing COVID-19 in the Healthcare Employers and Roadmap for Other High Risk Workplaces

WSHB Achieves RING Certification in its Continued Commitment to DEI

WSHB Expands to New Orleans

"A Double Dose of Power"

No License, No Problem – But Not Really

March 30, 2021

North Carolina law is well established that architects and engineers owe a duty of care to those who reasonably rely on their work. This duty runs in favor of a builder regardless of whether there is a contract with the design professional. North Carolina law is equally well established that an unlicensed contractor is barred from enforcing certain remedies under the “licensure defense.” The licensure defense is a court-created doctrine seeking to incentivize compliance with statutory licensure requirements and to protect the public from incompetent builders. These two maxims of North Carolina construction law collided in a recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case, Wright Constr. Servs., Inc. v. Hard Art Studio, PLLC, No. COA19-1089, 2020 WL 7906704 (N.C. App. Dec. 31, 2020).

In Wright Const., the trial court applied the licensure defense in dismissing the builder’s negligence claims against the design professional defendants. The Court of Appeals reversed, focusing on the purpose of the licensure defense, to protect the public from incompetent work on construction projects, not to shield architects or engineers from failure to exercise due care. Second, the court compared the nature of the claims asserted, negligence, against the contract claims generally barred by the licensure defense, noting that design professionals are not among the class of persons sought to be protected by the legislature through enactment of the licensing statute. Finally, the court refused the designers’ slippery slope argument based on the theoretical risk of an unlicensed contractor making an end run around the licensure defense to pursue what amount to otherwise barred contract claims against the owner, but did note that its holding was limited to claims based on the designers’ alleged failure to use their professional knowledge, leaving open the issue of whether the licensure defense would apply to claims against non-designer third-parties or designers acting in a non-designer role (e.g., owner’s rep or other monitoring or supervisory role).

While the builder’s failure to get properly licensed did not bar its recovery here, it took a trip to the appellate court to overturn an adverse summary judgment ruling on that basis. The decision is a good reminder to contractors that they should carefully monitor their compliance with licensing requirements to ensure the full array of legal remedies is available to them.

PRINT

Privacy Policy      |      Site Map

© 2021 Wood Smith Henning & Berman LLP

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required